Arroyo, Abalos in probe sheet of election irregularity case

Posted on October 21, 2011

FORMER PRESIDENT now Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo (2nd district), former Commission on Elections (Comelec) chairman Benjamin S. Abalos, Sr. and several others will face a preliminary investigation that may begin on Monday for their alleged involvement in fraud during the 2007 midterm elections, a Cabinet official said yesterday.

Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo -- AFP

Justice Secretary Leila M. de Lima said in a briefing at the Department of Justice (DoJ) that the personalities allegedly rigged poll results in provinces in Mindanao. The recommendations were contained in a report submitted to the Justice chief by the DoJ-Comelec fact-finding team. Preliminary investigation could start next week.

“I have ordered Prosecutor General [Claro M.] Arellano to convene the preliminary investigation committee by Monday to consider this report and take appropriate action,” Ms. de Lima said.

Mr. Abalos, along with his former chief-of-staff Jaime Paz, former Region 12 (Central Mindanao) acting election director Michael C. Abas, former North Cotabato acting election supervisor Lilia A. Susan-Radam, former South Cotabato election supervisor Yogie G. Martirizar, former Intelligence Service of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (ISAFP) Region 12 director Col. Reuben Basiao, ISAFP operatives Maj. Joey Leaban, Capt. Peter Reyes, Romy Dayday and Jeremy Javier, and former Justice secretary Alberto C. Agra were cited for alleged conspiracy in manipulating election results in the provinces of South and North Cotabato.

The individuals allegedly switched authentic poll documents with fake ones “thereby resulting to increase of votes, on a large scale and substantial numbers, in favor of some candidates and to the prejudice of other candidates,” the report read.

Notably, Mr. Abalos has been cited for ordering Misses Radam and Martirizar to manipulate results to favor then administration senators in Team Unity and ensure zero votes for then senatorial candidate and now President Benigno S. C. Aquino III, and senators Alan Peter S. Cayetano and Panfilo M. Lacson.

Meanwhile, Mrs. Arroyo, with Mr. Abalos, former Comelec commissioner Nicodemo T. Ferrer, former Maguindanao governor Andal S. Ampatuan, Sr. former Maguindanao provincial election supervisor Lintang H. Bedol, former Maguindanao administrator Norie K. Unas and 19 other election officers allegedly manipulated results in Maguindanao.

They were charged with conspiring to prepare “manufactured election returns which became the basis of canvass, thereby resulting to increase of votes, on a large scale and substantial numbers, in favor of some candidates.”

Mrs. Arroyo has been accused of ordering poll officials to ensure a 12-0 victory for Team Unity in Maguindanao and to alter or change results if necessary.

Aside from charges of electoral sabotage, a non-bailable offense under Republic Act 9369 or the automated election law, 19 former election officers in Maguindanao were recommended to be charged administratively and undergo investigation for violation of the Omnibus Election Code.

Meanwhile, the fact-finding committee has recommended further investigation on a number of election officials and former first gentleman Jose Miguel “Mike” T. Arroyo as there was not enough evidence to prove their involvement in fraud.

The fact-finding committee, headed by Justice Assistant Secretary Zabedin M. Asis who turned over the report to the preliminary investigation panel led by Mr. Arellano, considered various pieces of evidence, affidavits and testimonies, Ms. de Lima said.

Nearly all those who submitted affidavits to the fact-finding committee, including Mr. Bedol, Misses Radam and Martirizar, were recommended to be charged, but Ms. de Lima said it is up to Mr. Arellano’s panel to determine who should be made state witness and as respondents.

Prominent officials in the charge list recommended could not be immediately sought for comment.

However, Raul Lambino, Mrs. Arroyo’s counsel, said Ms. de Lima and Comelec Chairman Sixto S. Brillantes, Jr. have prejudged the case by their statements even before the committee has completed the report.

“We don’t think the investigation will be fair to us because they are just following the will of the Aquino administration and the pronouncements of Mr. Brillantes and Ms. de Lima,” he said.

The fact-finding investigation, composed of representatives from the DoJ, Comelec and the National Bureau of Investigation, started its work in August in response to claims that the 2007 polls were rigged.

Results of the investigation are expected before the year ends. -- N. R. Melican